Black in between the legs

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English version of “Pretas no meio das pernas”

People who know me, know that I travel a lot. That doesn’t mean that I do it physically. Sometimes I just turn off, other times it is because I’m too interested in the stories I’m hearing at the moment. In those moments lots of specific and detailed characters, who don’t even belong to  the plot, appear, and usually make me look like a silly person, with my mouth open and an incredible sceptical eyebrow .

Once, I was in Alísios, one of my favourite places in the Boavista Island, when I stopped in time while a Portuguese girl, a friend of mine who has been living here for some time, began talking.She is an  outspoken person, and the more she spoke, the more butterflies I could feel in my tommy.

We were talking about childhood and where would be a better place to raise a child: Portugal or Cape Verde. Everybody around the table agreed with the pros and cons until the moment when someone said that everything was relative.

Seriously, everything is always relative, we know, but what, before my coming to Cape Verde, had never been part of the conversation, was the sentence: that it also depends on the colour of the child.

That was the key ! The colour. It’s incredible as the colour became a topic on the table in these last months I have been living here. Although I have ever stated that racism exists, everything changes when we or our beloved feel it in our own bones. I grew up surrounded by tolerant, intelligent people who taught me not only the theory but also the practice of this thing. I never forgot the slaps I received at the age of six, when I accused a young collegue at  school of having lices. I really didn’t want to harm anybody, I just commented with the other children what I’d heard from the grown-ups from school. But one of the children told the girl’s mother and she went to school shouting at me and she even spoke with my parents. Then I learnt and I learnt well, ” Don’t you ever again dare to put shame on anyone”I can still remember and I never dared to say anything else…and seriously I had lices several times when I was in primary school, which, at the time, I believed to be a well deserved punishment given by nature.

It’s wonderful to see kids here plying on the beach: Portuguese, Cape Verdean, Senegalese, Italian, Chinese…a big  frenetic mess…But not all the tourist kids can play with them, some stay far away, watching, while their parents worried with the boogieman, lay on the sun, getting sun scalds that make you pitty them.
My friend who was talking has that lovely colour that so many white people envy and that I love. That same colour that harasses so many people who just lay there trying to get the same tan. She’s Portuguese, born in Portugal, daughter of a white mother and a black father.In Portugal the colour matters a lot, she says, and the worst is that after these last months, that sentence didn’t schock me.While in my family people love people, since I have been living here, I saw, very close to me, the family drama of white girls inlove with black guys, being disregarded by their close people.
In the 21st century, when everybody speaks about globalization, here I am, watching people from well educated families, suffering with family’s reaction for being inlove with someone ups… with a different colour.Extraordinary. And that friend of mine went on and told us that in Portugal her boyfriend’s parents didn’t want her around because she was black. And then I remembered that a Portuguese friend of mine, mulatto, born and raised in Portugal, son of parents from different countries, had once told me that during his childhood  no girls  from school liked him  because he was black
“Oh Balolas”, she told me,When I was a kid I constantly heard ” You damm nigger go home to your own land”. And I ran to my mum and said” but mum this is my land.”

Portugal… the colonizing country, the so religious and moralist country, the country of emigrants, the country of saudade, of grand parents and grand children working abroad, the country of so many houses opened only in August, the country where so many, as me, are in lands that don’t belong to them…sending people born and raised in Portugal to their own land.
And she went on and on telling unbelievable scenes that for her were, unfortunatly, very common and to me sounded like fiction, when I asked: What does a mother answer in such a situation?
She shook her hair, shrugged her shoulders and smiling said:
Look Balolas, it depends on the mother. Mine never lost a minute giving importance to the ignorance of those persons. But when the pression constrained and I, very little, was really stressed, she told me something that, at the time, I didn’t understand and that  today makes me laugh: Look , in such moments tell your colleagues: ” You should know that your mother is also black in between the legs”

Translation by Mary Grace Carvalho

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